What is Melasma?

by | Apr 19, 2017

Chances are, if you’ve heard of Melasma, it’s probably because you have it. It is a very common, but harmless skin condition. Melsama looks like dark splotches, or “ink-blot” spots, usually on the cheeks, upper lip (also called “pregnancy mask”) and forehead. It affects mostly women and often tends to show up in adulthood.

Melasma is often be confused with sun damage. While it is aggravated by heat and UV rays, they are not the root cause. While the exact causes of melasma are still unknown, it seems to be triggered by hormonal changes, pregnancy and some types of birth control.  It is thought that the pigment cells (Melanocytes) in the skin are triggered by the hormones to produce excessive amounts of pigment. The condition also affects those with darker skin more often, as their pigment cells are more active.


Those with Melasma will probably notice that it worsens in the summer months when the weather is warmer. This is because the heat and UV rays trigger the production of pigment in the skin. The over-active cells then produce unnecessary amounts of pigment, making the Melasma much more noticeable. Heat from spending a lot of time in a kitchen or using saunas can also trigger it for some people.


There are a few different options for treating Melasma, however, there is no cure. Exposing your skin to the triggers can bring your Melasma back in full force. The only way to keep it at bay is to avoid the triggers as much as possible once your skin has lightened.

Sunscreen: Sunscreen is the MOST IMPORTANT aspect of treating Melasma. Basically, if you have Melasma, make friends with your sunscreen and embrace your pale, even toned skin!  We recommend mineral sunscreen as opposed to chemical. Minerals physically reflect away the harmful UV rays, instead of absorbing them. This is much more effective for keeping Melasma at bay and has the bonus of not introducing nasty chemicals into your bloodstream.

People with Melasma should use a mineral SPF of 30 to 50, EVERY DAY. Hats are also very helpful.  For many, even ONE DAY in the sun without their mineral SPF can waste the months of work (and money) they spent treating their pigment.

Hydroquinone: This is a topical medication which lightens excess pigment in the skin and is usually very effective in treating Melasma. It blocks the enzymes which create excess pigment in the skin cells. Hydroquinone should only be used under the guidance of a professional.

Retinol: Retinol, a derivative of Vitamin A, is found in many different skin care products.  It helps speed up the natural processes of skin cell turnover and can help treat excess pigment. By promoting exfoliation of top layers of the skin, Retinol is an amazing ingredient that can help many different skin conditions. It must be used carefully, under professional supervision and daily SPF use is required.

Laser Treatments: Some laser treatments can be very helpful in destroying the excess pigment cells, however not all types of lasers will work for Melasma. Some types of laser treatments such as IPL create too much heat in your skin and will actually WORSEN Melsama. To date, the only types of laser treatments that do not trigger Melasma are some picosecond lasers and Erbium laser peels.

Natural Skin Lightening Ingredients: Citric acids, Aloe Vera, apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil and many other spices and extracts are also said to help lighten Melasma. Although some may see some mild improvement, the results will typically not be as drastic as the other methods mentioned above.

Melasma is seen under the surface of the skin using a special UV light.

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